You can podcast by yourself. But is that the best way to do it?
Interview shows are among the most popular podcast formats. They shift some of the burden of the content to guests, create new relationships between the brand and the community, and open the brand up to new audiences. To quote one of Seth Godin’s maxims, “All marketers tell stories,” and an interview podcast is one of the best ways to find new stories to tell.
Look at Guy Raz’s How I Built This, a business podcast run by NPR. Raz weaves interviews together with masterful storytelling to explain how different businesspeople have been successful. It works. It’s one of the most popular business podcasts around.
Finding interesting guests is the backbone of the show. And it can be yours too. Every solo artist needs a band when they hit the big time, and you’re no different. This week, we continue our series on business podcasts and focus on how you can go from being a one-man band to a supergroup by finding guests for your podcast.
Give Them Something to Talk About
One of the golden rules of marketing is show the benefit first. You don’t write “This car has a 5.6-liter turbocharged V8.” You write “This car goes from 0 to 60 in less time than it took you to read this sentence.”
If you want great guests, build a great podcast.
Great content compounds on itself. Make sure you’re putting in the work your podcast deserves — your guests will be able to tell the difference. There are three major areas this will come through:
- Research. Great interviewers are also great researchers. Well-known interviewer Sean Evans is known for his interesting and insightful questions, and he shared some of his techniques on the H3 podcast. Evans spends days researching each person he interviews, digging into every article, podcast and interview he can find on them. He looks for the moments where someone’s eyes light up — where it feels like they were excited to answer a question. Find those nuggets. Look for what your guests are excited to talk about. They’ll reciprocate with great answers.
- Storytelling. Each interview should tell a story that is interesting to you, makes sense for the brand, and is compelling to your audience. There are few messages more powerful than a tweet about a story a listener heard from your guest…on your podcast.
- Interview skill. Great interviewers make people comfortable. They make their guests feel like they’re having a personal conversation, not an interrogation. Many people are not comfortable speaking to a crowd, but a great interviewer puts people at ease. The result of that comfort is a better guest list. Guests want to be interviewed by great interviewers, and if you’re providing that skill you’ll book better gigs than your audience size might merit. The top interview skill is to go beyond the boilerplate questions and get into things their guest is excited about. Stay engaged and adjust the questions if you’re not getting a great response and know when to lay back and let the guest talk. It takes time to build that skill, but it’s worth it.
The benefits of good research, storytelling and interview skills will make your podcast more appealing to the audience and to potential guests. You can offer them a place on the stage they’ll be happier to fill — because even if you’re the frontman, they’re still getting to solo.
I Hear You Knocking
You can have the best podcast in the world, but unless you’re in the rarefied atmosphere of the top business shows on the web, you have to work to get guests on the show. This isn’t Field of Dreams — if you build it, they won’t come unless you invite them. For you to go from a one-man band to a supergroup, you’ll need to get guests that contribute.
The best invitation is a show overview or media press page. In no more than two pages, tell potential guests everything they need to know about the podcast, the podcast host, and the brand behind the show. Include:
- Show name and type of show. Include a brief description of what the show is about. Think of this as your podcast’s elevator pitch.
- Picture and branding. You and your company branding. Make it professional.
- Common topics. This can give them something to focus their own preparation on.
- You and your background. Guests will be more comfortable on a show if they know the person they’re going to be talking to.
- Your company and its background. Again, they’re going to want to know what kind of show they’re being invited to join. Are you some sort of fly-by-night pop-up company? A shell? Just green? Or is this something established and capable? Reassure them.
When you reach out to prospective guests, include the show overview as a PDF or link. Your outreach should be a custom pitch to them on why they should come on your show, with the overview attached. That approach will vary in complexity based on how close you are to them already and what platform you’re reaching out on (a DM will likely be shorter than an email, for example).
Message in a Bottle
Now that you know how to reach out to prospective guests, you need to figure out where to find interesting people to interview. If you were trying to find band members, you’d naturally go to concerts, venues and music stores — that’s where you would find the musicians. The same applies to finding people for your show. There are four major sources you can use to find great business podcast guests.
Social media is a powerful tool for podcasters because it’s self-selecting. People who are active on social media are already in a sharing state of mind or are at least self-promoting. The platforms make it very easy to connect and interact. Often even if prospects close their direct messaging, you’ll find contact information in their profile.
LinkedIn and Twitter are usually the best platforms for business podcast outreach. Entrepreneurs, executives, marketers and journalists naturally gravitate there. Facebook, Reddit and other platforms can be effective in some cases.
The way you approach social media outreach will depend on where you’re most active. It’s easier if you already have an active social feed with good engagement — you’ll have a better idea how to reach out based on the channel.
Social media can be highly effective, but it’s largely dependent on your level of engagement. In some cases, guest solicitation will require that you resort to other contact methods.
Email is comprehensive and allows you to cover all the notes in your pitch. It’s also ego-building for the person receiving it — it takes more time and effort to craft a good email than to drop a casual DM. (You are crafting a good email, right? Sending a generic pitch is worse than sending no pitch at all.)
If you’re reaching out to someone who has a public profile, you may not be communicating directly with them. This is particularly likely in a cold outreach where the recipient doesn’t know you. You’ll need to spend more time and effort introducing yourself and explaining why an appearance on your podcast would be valuable to the guest.
A warm pitch to someone you already have a relationship with is much simpler. You can jump straight into the benefits of appearing on your show instead of explaining who you are and why they should trust you.
ProTip: Try reaching out to someone who’s just released a book — they’re often hunting for press opportunities and are much more likely to accept than they might be normally.
Email can be highly effective if you do it right. Write a good pitch and don’t skimp on the details.
One of the best routes to guests is through a personal connection. Find someone in your network that knows the guest prospect and have them make the ask or at least introduce you. You’ll be starting with a degree of trust that doesn’t exist elsewhere.
When you’re connecting to somebody through a friend, don’t ask them to introduce you unless you feel like the relationship will pay off. This is not the time to be taking wild shots in the dark — you’re asking someone to cosign your relationship. It’s a big deal.
The last type of guest solicitation is paid access. There are professional guests who make their living by being paid to be on podcasts. Professional guests are often organized in networks and you can hire them for your own show. Some guests will only come on your show if you pay them.
You might have the money, but you need to figure out whether there is an ROI. What value does the guest bring? Every guest has to bring something to the table: audience access, credibility, expert insight. Decide whether it’s worth the extra investment before you pay someone — if you’re getting good guests for free, you might not want to bother.
Good guests are the lifeblood of a good business interview podcast. You can “work your way up” to more unique and famous guests over time by leveraging relationships. It can be tough to get started, but once the inertia is broken, you’ll find that the process gets easier. Start with a great experience and give them value and you’ll see the fruits.
Just like a solo artist going out on tour, you’ll need a “backing band” of people who can bring value to your show. Use this plan to find people who want to appear on your podcast and you’ll set yourself up for long-term success and maybe just create the next great business podcast. Need help figuring out how? Know that you don’t need to go it alone. We’re in this with you. If you need a little help, just drop us a line, anytime.
Rainmaker Digital Services